Game of Thrones fans may still be mourning the end of the most-watched TV show in HBO's history, but the good news is that more details have emerged about at least one of the planned spin-offs to the shows that are currently in development at HBO.
Of the plethora of sequels, prequels and stand-alones that have been mooted since execs turned their attention to replacing their most bankable asset following the long-planned season eight finale, at least three are still believed to be in various stages of development.
HBO was always notoriously secretive about the main GoT franchise, so it's no surprise that it has carried this tradition through to the spin-offs.
We do know, however, that one of the shows is reported to already be shooting in Northern Ireland, the main filming location for all eight seasons of GoT, under the command of showrunner Jane Goldman. Goldman wrote movies including The Woman in Black, Kick Ass, and the Kingsman franchise.
Now George RR Martin, author of the original A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which Game of Thrones is based (A Game of Thrones was the title of the first book in the series), and executive producer of both the original series and its upcoming spin-offs, has finally broken his silence in an interview with Entertainment Weekly and given us some teasers for what to expect from this prequel to the ratings-winning show. Here's what we've learned:
1. Martin’s got the name wrong
Wrong may be a little harsh. This is, after all, Martin's show, and Martin's world. The author has, however, been frequently referring to the prequel as carrying the title The Long Night. This is in reference to a period of history bearing this name which is alluded to in his novels.
Confusingly for fans, however, this is also the name of episode three of the final season of GoT. Martin has emphasised that the new show remains untitled for now, although The Long Night remains his preferred title. He did admit to EW however that a new name may be necessary in the circumstances: "I heard a suggestion that it could be called The Longest Night, which is a variant I wouldn't mind. That would be pretty good."
2. There won’t be Seven Kingdoms
Game of Thrones focused on the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and their struggle to unite the fictional land under one rule by gaining a seat on the Iron Throne. Things were a little more complex in the past, however.
The new show will be set around 5,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, and Martin tells EW: "We talk about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. There were Seven Kingdoms at the time of Aegon's Conquest, but if you go back further then there are nine kingdoms, and 12 kingdoms, and eventually you get back to where there are a hundred kingdoms — petty kingdoms — and that's the era we're talking about here."
Westeros was a pretty chaotic place when just seven kingdoms were vying for power, so we hardly dare imagine what this, multiplied by 14-and-a-bit, might look like.
3. We’ll see some familiar faces, and snouts
Obviously fan favourites like Jon Snow and Danaerys Targaryen weren’t around 5,000 years ago. Even dragons didn’t exist yet, but Martin reassures fans that the show won’t be entirely unfamiliar: “The Starks will definitely be there,” he said, presumably referring to the fact that in his book the Stark family descended from the First Men. “Obviously the White Walkers are here — or as they’re called in my books, The Others — and that will be an aspect of it. There are things like direwolves and mammoths.”
4. But we won’t get any Lannisters to boo
The Lannisters, and particularly the wicked Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) were the family fans loved to hate in the original show. Unlike fan favourites the Starks, however, they won't be popping up in the sequel: "The Lannisters aren't there yet, but [their home] Castlery Rock is certainly there; it's like the Rock of Gibraltar," Martin says. "It's actually occupied by the Casterlys — for whom it's still named after in the time of Game of Thrones."
In the novels, the Casterlys were tricked out of their home by Lann the Clever, who founded House Lannister, but we don’t yet know if this tale will be told in the prequel.
5. We can expect another huge, stellar cast
Game of Thrones seemed to keep almost the entire membership of the UK's Equity Union for Performers employed over the course of its eight seasons, and plenty of talent from elsewhere in the world too. The new show looks set to be no different.
HBO's cast list so far appears to suggest the show might be led by a trio of female leads in Naomi Watts, Naomi Ackie, and Denise Gough, but Martin was keen to avoid the word 'lead'. "As you know for Game of Thrones, we never even nominated anybody for lead actress or lead actor [during awards season] until recently," he explained. "It was always for supporting [categories] because the show is such an ensemble. I think that will be true for this show too. We don't have leads so much as a large ensemble cast."
With so much going on with his TV projects, and Game of Thrones having already overtaken Martin's novels in season six, there's probably one more burning question on the minds of GoT fans. It's been eight years since Martin's last novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series was published, and he's been promising us number six ever since.
Unfortunately, he's still offering no updates about when we might expect that particular tome, though if taking his time means he manages to bring his series to a more satisfactory conclusion than the show's writers did once they careered ahead without his source material three seasons ago, fans may yet thank him in the long run.